Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim

Christianity in practice means the dedication of life to the unselfish service of GOD and man, in the light of the ideals of Jesus Christ, and in the power of an inward spiritual life which is hid with Christ in GOD. The Christian, renouncing such merely worldly ideals as self- advancement, personal or family ambition, the accumulation of money, or the enjoyment, for their own sake, of the things which money can buy, is called to seek first and in all things GOD’S Kingdom and His righteousness, in the assurance that whatever may be really necessary for the advancement of this aim will in due course be added unto him.

He is not to expect to find the practice of his religion to be, in a worldly sense, profitable; and the practice of his religion is to cover the whole of life. The desperate attempt to combine the service of GOD with that of Mammon is therefore to be abandoned. If riches increase, he is not to set his heart upon them. If poverty be his lot, he is to embrace poverty as a bride. The aim and object of his life is not to be to get his own will done, but to discover what for him is the will of GOD, and to do it. He is to be the slave of GOD in Christ, a living instrument in the hands of Another, called to co-operate in a purpose not his own, though a purpose which he is to embrace, and to make his own, in a spirit of loyal sonship.

This means, among other things, that life is to be interpreted in terms of vocation. It means that for every man there is a “calling,” a particular line of life which GOD intends him to follow, a specific piece of service to GOD and to his neighbour which he is called upon to render. The motto of a Christian’s life is to be the motto of his Master–"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” Gifts and capacities, aptitudes for any special work, are therefore “talents,” to be used in accordance with the will and purpose of the Giver. Opportunities and endowments, whatsoever they may be, are opportunities and endowments for service.

It does not necessarily follow from this that a realization of the truth of Christianity, and an awakening to the claims of religion, will lead to any outward change or radical alteration in the general conception of a man’s life-work. It may or it may not do so. There are indubitably cases in which a man is called upon to abandon his previous career–to forsake prospects, however promising, or to renounce wealth and possessions, however entangling–in order to become (for example) a minister of the Church or a missionary of the Gospel, or to enter a religious order. Our Lord’s command to the rich young ruler, that he should give up all that he had, in order to follow Christ along the paths of homelessness and poverty, is a call which sounds still with a literal force in the ears of a certain number of His disciples. The inner spirit, moreover, of detachment from the world and from the things of the world, the readiness to abandon wealth and worldly position if need so require, and the refusal to be ensnared by them, are in any case demanded of all. The vocation, however, of the majority of men is already determined by their circumstances, or by their training and general aptitudes. It is only the few, comparatively speaking, who are called to become monks or missionaries, or priests devoid of “prospects.” The majority will best serve GOD and their neighbour by “carrying on” in their existing occupations: and in most cases they are incidentally called also, sooner or later, to matrimony.

But GOD calls no man to idleness. It is the duty of every Christian, rich as well as poor, unless he be incapacitated by bodily sickness or infirmity, to be engaged in some work of general service to the community: and a man who proposes seriously to practise the Christian religion needs to ask himself, with regard to the work or occupation in which he is engaged, or by which he earns his bread, whether he can say truly that he believes it to be the work which his Father has given him to do: whether it can be interpreted, not simply as a means of livelihood, but as a service rendered in Christ’s name to society at large. If it cannot so be interpreted, then plainly it is no work which a Christian should be doing. There are ways of making a living which, are definitely unchristian. The work of a shoe-black or of a tradesman or of an actor may be as true a piece of Christian service as that of a doctor or a bishop. The work of a burglar or of a bookmaker could not be so regarded.

Christianity–it cannot be too strongly insisted–means the Christianization of life as a whole. It is in the daily round and the common task that Christ is most chiefly to be served. “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to GOD and the Father by Him.” Religion is a wider thing than piety, and it is a false pietism which would regard it as consisting mainly of pious practices. The cultivation of the inner spiritual life by means of the practices of Christian devotion is indeed essential in its place and its degree. The life of the spirit languishes if it is not fed. But except these things issue in the practical service of Christ in daily life they are worse than futile. They degenerate either into formalism and hypocrisy, or into spiritual self- indulgence. “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And the “fruits” of Christian living are to be discovered, not in the hours spent in devotion, but in the manifestation amid the activities of the market-place of that temper of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and that spirit of unselfish service, which should be their normal product.

What is needed is a wider conception of Churchmanship and a truer doctrine of vocation. All honest work in which a Christian can lawfully engage should be regarded as an expression of his Churchmanship–as truly work done for the Church of GOD in obedience to a vocation from on high as is the work of a priest or a teacher of religion. It is at least partly because the majority of laymen do not so interpret their work in life that in so many cases they are discovered to be in effect living for the sake of their leisure and regarding their daily work as uninteresting drudgery, with the result that life as a whole comes to be for them dreary and profitless and stale. A Christian man’s life-work ought not to have the character of drudgery, but of sheer delight in GOD’S service.

But is such an ideal really practicable? It is literally practicable to a greater extent than most men think. It ought to be practicable universally. At the same time there is no disguising the fact that large numbers of men to-day find themselves in circumstances to which such a doctrine cannot without palpable unreality be applied. The structure of existing society under modern industrial conditions forces multitudes, by an evil economic pressure, into mechanical, uncongenial, and soul-destroying occupations: and the conditions of some men’s labour in the world as it is are such that it would be sheer blasphemy to regard them as a product of the will of GOD. The problem of the Christianization of the social order is one of the greatest of the tasks confronting the Christian Church. Its solution has hardly yet begun to be attempted. In the meantime the mass of Christian people, in virtue of their acquiescence, are accomplices in the denial to the disinherited classes of the conditions and opportunities which make life worth living for themselves. So long as it continues to be possible for a man who genuinely desires to learn and labour truly to get his own living to starve in the midst of plenty: so long as multitudes are constrained to work under conditions which rob their labour of all interest, of all idealism, and of all hope: so long as sweating, and destitution, and such conditions of life as obtain in the more densely crowded areas of our great towns continue to exist: so long will it be the duty of every Christian to be a social reformer, and to have a conscience permanently troubled with regard to wealth and social advantage. [Footnote: Mr. George Lansbury’s Your Part in Poverty (George Alien and Unwin, Ltd., Is.) is a book worth reading in this particular connexion.]

Meanwhile the Christian ideal of life stands. It is the ideal of consecration to service. It means discipleship in Christ’s school of unselfishness, both individual and corporate: for there is a selfishness of the family, of the class, or of the nation, which bears as bitter fruit in the world as does the selfishness of the individual. Christianity, in a word, means the carrying out into daily practice of the ideal of the Imitatio Christi, the imitation of Jesus Christ, in the spirit if not in the letter. It means that as He was, so are we to be in the world. It means that all things, whatsoever we do, are to be done in His Spirit and to His glory: that our every thought is to be led captive under the obedience of Christ. It means that we are to love GOD because GOD first loved us, and to love men because they are our brothers in the family of GOD: because love is of GOD, and every one that loveth is born of GOD and knoweth GOD. It means that we are to consecrate all comradeship and loyalty and friendship, all sorrow and all joy, by looking upon them as friendship and loyalty and comradeship in Christ, as sorrow and joy in Him. It means that we are to live glad, strong, free, clean lives as sons of GOD in our Father’s House.

It means also struggle and hardship. It means truceless war against the spirit of selfishness, against everything that tends to drag us down, against the law of sin in our own members. It means a truceless war against low ideals and tolerated evils in the world about us. It means soldiership in the eternal crusade of Christ against whatsoever things are false and dishonest and unjust and foul and ugly and of evil report.

It is an ideal which, considered in isolation from the Christian Gospel of redemption and the power of the Holy Spirit, could only terrify and daunt a man who had a spark of honesty in his composition: and for this reason the mass of men refuses to take it seriously. It is an ideal which, in the case of all who do take it seriously, convinces them of sin.

Nevertheless to lower the ideal, to abate one jot of its severity, to compromise, on the score of human weakness, though it were but in a single particular, the flawless perfection of its standard, were to prove false to all that is highest within us, and traitor to the cause of Christ.

“Never, O Christ–so stay me from relenting–Shall there be truce betwixt my flesh and soul.”


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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